Thomas Telford was quite the Scottish engineer in his days. Thomas Telford is credited with the construction of in excess of 1,500 miles of roadway, over 400 bridges, many leading harbours and jetties, as well as the Menai Bridge and the Caledonian Canal. He was also commissioned by Parliament to provide 32 churches and 71 manses throughout the Highlands and Islands at a total cost of £1,500 each. There are also a few Thomas Telford Churches on Islay to be found.
One of these Parliament churches on Islay is still in use as a regular place of worship. Portnahaven Church in the Rhinns peninsula was built in the mid 1820s to plans drawn up by Telford. Although he did not oversee the actual construction, he appointed superintendents to ensure his plans were adhered to and that all was kept within the stipulated budget. Parishioners could choose if they wanted a gallery within their church building and the people of the Rhinns raised sufficient money to have such a facility installed within their kirk.
Kilmeny Church at Ballygrant was remodelled in 1828 to plans drawn up by Telford and is situated in an area which was the site of a number of medieval and early Celtic places of worship. Portnahaven and Kilmeny Churches are now a linked charge together with St Kiaran’s church on the outskirts of Port Charlotte. St Kiaran’s was opened for worship in 1899 and was designated a parish church in 1977 following the closure of the church at Kilchoman due to the area’s depopulation and the resultant difficulty in maintaining a parish church in the district.
Risabus Church on The Oa
The third Thomas Telford Church on Islay was the now ruined church at Risabus on the Oa Peninsula. The church at Risabus was originally a Parliamentary Church. The Oa became a q.s. parish in 1849 but was united with Kildalton. Risabus Church was erected by Aberdeen builders John Gibb and William Minto in 1828. The church was damaged by fire in 1915 and finally closed in 1930.